Love the Greatest Adventure: An Inquiry into Romeo and Juliet, Like Crazy and Brokeback Mountain


Love is the greatest adventure.

Especially if we want to live our lives to the fullest.


It is the moment where true beauty overcomes our reason and will, our plans are torn to bits and choices get made and voilà, life happens. Though, it is possible that we can be seduced by what appears to be beauty, beauty is itself inseparable from the great leap.


Everyone knows the story: Romeo and Juliet, coming from opposing feudal families, should not have fallen in love, but they did! God bless em, it was a hard road.


I saw a movie once called Like Crazy that captured with accuracy the modern lover. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, they fall in love. Their lives, however, are complicated, separated by boundaries, borders, and red tape. Anna is an English exchange student studying in America where she meets Jacob, a local resident. In the initial stages of their love they make the leap, and the process of creative destruction takes place. When Anna overstays her student visa and is subsequently barred from entering the United States, their relationship becomes all the the more difficult.


The barriers of their long distance relationship dismantles what appeared to be mutual self-gift.


Love without sacrifice, is not love.


Anna and Jacob had sparks, they seemed to be perfect for one another. But something was missing… no one dies at the end. Even when they are back together, they fail to see past the immediate problems, the obstacles. They both fail to make the leap that love is, the final leap, the leap that tears open to human heart so that it may become an abode in which the beloved may find a home.


You see, when children play at romance it is like a game of house. One puts the “wife” hat on, and then takes it off. The other puts the “husband” hat on, and then takes it off.


When adults live romance, people lose everything and gain everything in the same breath. People die and people make mistakes, but at least it is real.

True love is complete gift.


Look at the tragedy of Brokeback Mountain.


These men, so called lovers, would not give all of themselves to anyone, neither to their respective wives, nor to each other. It is not primarily a sad story because of the persecution; it is a sad story because love failed to give. Ennis would not die for Jack, and vice versa. No matter how good the sex was, without love, the story is heartbreaking; neither had the courage to give everything.


Do we?


Doubtless someone will say, “But if there wasn’t any persecution, they could have loved each other!”


Whoever thinks that the point of Romeo and Juliet was a denunciation of social boundaries misses the story completely.


True love crosses any threshold, any boundary, even at the risk of death.


If it will not risk death, it is not love.


Love, however, can also mean saying no.


Take Anna and Jacob who flitter between commitment and noncommitment. If circumstance or lack of capacity prevented them from the ultimate gift that their relationship seemed to be leading to, prevented them from making the great and final “I do,” then breaking it off would have been the most loving action possible.


To hold the beloved in the land of “maybe” is torture and selfish.


We cannot say no to commitment, total self gift, and yes to the beloved at the same time.


It is a contradiction which would inevitably destroy the beloved.


We see this very destruction in Brokeback Mountain. Families crumble, children are left without a stable environment in which to thrive, to grow up as beloved. It is heart wrenching and brutal, and the longer the “maybe” exists, the more intense the destruction becomes.


I am not, of course, speaking against a normal period of courtship in which two souls discern together whether or not they’ve found the one. For that discerning is two people journeying together towards a goal, and knowing that the wild and ultimate freedom of the other is operative. It is a productive time of “maybe” that finishes at the appropriate time with a “Yes” or a “No”, and no nonsense.


Just as with any great challenge that is worth doing, “half-hearted” just does not cut it. Why should love be any different?


Defending Goodness in an Age of Uncertainty


Every once and a while one gets the opportunity to stumble upon a great and engaging book. The kind that makes us excited to read again, to search and hunt for more of its kind. True to life at large, these hidden gems are hard to come by, and this is what makes the joy of finding them so riveting.

Recently I was blessed with such providence. I found my little hidden gem in a library branch I’ve only been to once in my life, the time I found this book! The book was none other than Roger Sarty’s War in the St. Lawrence. It was a captivating and educating read; not surprisingly for a history book on naval affairs, it had very little dry patches and best of all I was taken deeper into understanding the psyche of the Canadian generations before me.

I have noticed, mostly through my own inadequacy, that my own generation has a hard time understanding the ways of life from previous generations. During my time spent with a friend who has seen more winters than I can imagine, I am often confronted with a stark reality: my generation does not fully understand the horrors of a world war, the tumult of the sixties, or the need to support one’s military.

No matter how many times one sees Hitler and his cronies on TV or watches movies about the great military battles of those times, it will never compare to the actual reality of WWII. One can never imagine what it was like to live with constant, real, and vivid fear. It must have effected every aspect of life, the bus drivers, the shop keepers, the waiters, everyone must have felt the tension. People must have been more on edge, though I’m sure it also bonded people together as well.

War in the St. Lawrence is a captivating recollection of Canada’s efforts to protect many nations shipping interests along Canada’s enormous span of coastline from the attacks of German U-Boats, and even to guide transatlantic shipping to support Britain in her war effort against the Nazi death machine. The bravery of the Canadians who fought against the German U-Boats was enormous; at the best of times they were under-equipped and short-handed. Sometimes major waterways were defended by militarized pleasure craft, or other quick fixes to get some defence in place. Not only those in the military, but those who ran the supply ships ran a great risk to their lives in the open seas. Those on shore felt the fear as well: on more than one occasion the wreckage and bodies of dead sailors floated  ashore from recently destroyed vessels; sometimes the bodies were family members or relatives of the people in those very communities.



In an age where relativism is gaining more and more ground, it is scary to imagine a country whose citizens will cease to fight for what is right in this world, to have a generation who will say, “maybe it’s right for them,” instead of stopping atrocity. Relativism cannot fight evil, because it cannot identify it. If I truly believe in relativism, then what right do I have invading Germany to stop the holocaust? Who am I to say that Hitler was wrong and I am right? However, if we understand the value of human life, absolutely, only then are we capable of intervening.

Perhaps one reason why relativism has taken such a footing is because the very real, blatant, and undeniable reality of evil contained in war, mass murders, and dictatorship is rather distant for most North Americans under fifty years of age. Many brave men and women have fought for our country over the years since the Second World War, but more and more people are losing touch with the importance of an effective, functioning, and well supported military. That means support from it’s citizens.

Though I am a Canadian, I also find America’s military history intriguing. People tend to tar and feather all American war efforts in the last few decades, but judgement is far easier then working towards understanding. If we are to understand the errors of a nation’s army, we must look to that nation’s very citizens. We must dig deep into the psyche of their people and leaders. We must feel and know the pain of their cultures, the struggles that have played out for centuries. Only once this work has been done can one begin to understand the true motivations behind America’s hunt for Bin Laden, for example, or their military action in Iraq. The first lesson of human psychology is that any given action is rarely singularly motivated; likewise, saying that America’s involvement in Iraq is due to oil alone, is rather short-sighted.

It is difficult to make accurate or meaningful judgements of the American military operations in Vietnam also. Though it was a tragic and misguided effort, how many of us know about the true horrors of communism? How many have lived under the oppressive, mass murdering, regimes of the communist political machine? The non-communists in Vietnam understood this reality all too well following the fall of Saigon. Two choices existed: try to escape or face slave labour and probably death at the hands of the communists and their “re-education camps”. A mass exodus occurred; people tried to escape the communist occupation and took their chances on the open sea, often times with  home-made boats, facing deadly storms, pirates, disease, and starvation, rather then accept the “education” of the communists. Hundreds of thousands died trying to escape, and it wasn’t compassion or kindness they were running from. With this reality in mind, I cannot wholly blame America for trying.

Evil must be resisted in any form it takes, even at the risk of helping in the wrong way.

Without the capacity to see and know right from wrong, regardless of opinion or personal differences, a society becomes an enabling force for atrocity. Violating a country’s sovereignty is not an act that should be taken lightly; therefore, much thought and discernment is always needed to know when to intervene and when not too. As can been seen with the Rwandan genocide, to do nothing can be the worst choice of all.

Thanks to providence and the sacrifice of millions, we were spared from living beneath the Nazi boot. To argue that the lives lost defeating Nazi Germany were wasted, would be insanity. War is tragic, inhuman, depraved, and so contrary to every good thing, but the Nazi regime was worse. Taking a man’s life in an armed conflict is one thing, liquidating defenceless women and children for no other reason then their heritage is pure and unfettered evil. There is no better name for it.

Even so, I get the feeling that some would argue that “the Nazi’s just did what was right for them”. If this way of thinking has not been reached yet, relativism is quickly hurdling us in that direction. It is this type of thinking that terrifies me to my core. I have heard the argument that if Nazi Germany did conquer North America, then we would all have been indoctrinated into Nazi thinking, and thus we would not see anything wrong with Nazi thinking. For some this may be true, but for anyone with a solid sense of truth, it would not be the case.

No matter how long a dictatorship has been in place, we always hear of those who see the evil of their surroundings and fight against it in any way possible. For many, this means death at the hands of their government, but for these people, to do nothing in the face of such injustice is unacceptable. It is an undeniable proof of the human capacity for knowledge of what is good, and what is wrong, even in the face of relentless propaganda. These freedom fighters defied the greatest human inclination, the desire to maintain life, in the pursuit of goodness. A great example of this is the White Rose resistance movement: a group of university students who wrote and distributed anti-Nazi leaflets in defiance of such a malicious government. Many lost their lives because of their efforts.


If one rationalizes their experience of evil, they become more and more desensitized to it, until finally there is little or no reaction. It is good to be repulsed by evil. It is good to recoil at the thought of innocent people being slaughtered or worked to death. If a culture loses this ability it will lose its very soul. Great caution should be taken to ensure that the rationalization of evil is not encouraged. One need only look to the content of modern TV, video games, popular slang, pornography, etc. to see an unsettling trend.

More and more video games contain the ability to be good or evil, to kill the bad guys or kill innocent bystanders, to rob and murder or to live by some code. In one Japanese video game the sole purpose of the game is to stalk and rape women in the subway. Many would argue, “It’s just fantasy, or virtual reality, we don’t actually want to do these things.” My question is this: why would you even want to pretend to do it for fun? If our children spent their time imagining a scenario of sleeping with a prostitute and killing her after instead of paying her, a course of events which may be chosen in several of the games in the Grand Theft Auto series, would we encourage this “harmless” fantasizing?

In and of themselves, video games will not destroy a person’s conscience, but repeated exposure on a regular basis to such content will have a dire effect on a person’s ability to react to evil. We become desensitized to the suffering of the other, and therefore become more isolated and self-centered.

You can recognize the hero’s who fought against the Nazi occupation by those who decided to live for someone other then themselves, by those who risked everything to save children from Jewish ghetto’s, for example. You can see the fruit of self-centeredness by those who went along with the Nazis out of fear for their own life or livelihood, and as a result did atrocious acts they never would have done in any other circumstance. I cannot cast a judgemental finger at these people, however, because the pressure they were put under was enormous and unusual. To resist such coercion is extremely difficult, but this reality is exactly why it’s important to have firm and defined values, to know what one stands for, and what lines one will never hope to cross.

Some would argue that the only thing we can be certain about is that we can’t know anything with total certainty. People treat absolute truth like its some rigid and stodgy thing, that no true modern thinker could possibly hold such beliefs. I argue just the opposite. If we are to retain our decency and empathy then we need real and absolute values; only absolute truth can support real compassion.  I must decide and know that what is happening to my friend is wrong, before I will act to help him, or alleviate him from his persecutors. To renounce such an ability is foolishness. To take on the responsibility of knowing truth, goodness, and right from wrong is a lifelong process, but it enables one to become more human, more compassionate, and more loving. Just as action towards the good of the other is inseparable from love, so striving on a daily basis to know truth is inseparable from doing what is right. Without knowledge of truth, a person becomes a leaf in the wind ready to accept any new influential movement, whether it be from a heinous dictator, like Hitler, or from some other source.

My love for history began with my love for the human race; more and more I’m beginning to realise how understanding history is absolutely necessary to understanding the actions and motivations of modern day cultures and nations.

Walking With Tolkien: A Journey From Desolation to Life, Part 3 of 3


Though Frodo is crushed by his journey, we are given insight into how this pain and suffering can be translated into opportunity for gift and life. No other situation highlights this effect more than Frodo’s interactions with the miserable and pitiable Gollum.


Isn’t Gollum a bit like the pain and discomfort in all our lives?


Without Gollum the Hobbits could have actually had some good sleep, but instead they needed to be on their guard. Without Gollum they could have relaxed somewhat and enjoyed each other’s company, but instead the vile ex-Hobbit acted as a wedge, creating conflict between our two protagonists.


Gollum invokes pity and ire, but we must admit, without Gollum’s selfish desires, there would have been no guidance to Mordor, and in the end, all would have been lost.


Gollum contributes almost no good actions of his own intention to the entire story, but he cannot be removed from the tale. The undeniable reality that pain must be a part of our earthly lives rings true. Frodo was spared from his final caving into the power of the ring by Gollum removing the ring along with his finger. Ironically, the power of the ring over Gollum, is what spared Frodo from the pain and inevitable torment of accepting the ring as his master. Frodo would have become as dark and faceless as Gollum. It is my own pain that steers me from my pride. My agony showed me what some people endure throughout their entire lives. Now, when I meet someone who’s grumpy and vile I wonder, trying to understand, “What dark days have they suffered in their life?”


When Gollum became the Hobbit’s guide to Mordor, is when the story really began to strike home. The endless journey through the stinky, damp, and uninviting swamps, for example, was easy for me to imagine. I too looked down into the water and saw death looking up and was almost consumed if not for a select few who stood by and pulled me up. I smelt the stench and hated it; I wanted to be free.


Sam and Frodo continued forward, and with every mile their weariness grew. The ring crushed Frodo with its physical weight as well as its pressure upon his very will. Always, Frodo fought the temptation to give in, end his struggle, and accept the ring. Failure hung over me with the same effect. Joe, like Sam, was nearby to remind me of the goodness and light I was pursuing in such an endless endeavour. I experienced a deeply spiritual process in which, despite not hearing the words of someone who cared and continuing on a self-destructive path, somehow, I would register the words in a subconscious place and would be strengthened when I least expected it, but needed it the most. Joe’s words often served this function, like Sam’s for Frodo’s sake.


Despite many incredible challenges, the two Hobbits kept moving onward.


They survived Shelob’s onslaught and escaped Gollum’s betrayal. They even pushed forward with the realisation, always in their minds, that there wasn’t enough food for the return trip. Their final stretch through Mordor is the most intense and bleakly described setting in the book. The region is nauseating and filled with pockets of pain and orcs. It was here that I recognized a complete resemblance to my own struggles. It seems like you never get any closer, but you get more and more tired. Yet, within this desolation, the love of Sam grows and carries Frodo further and further. Eventually, Sam literally carries Frodo towards the cave of Mount Doom. This is sainthood. To achieve true love it is not enough to simply care, but we must carry the one we love.


Love this strong is real.


The Lord of the Rings didn’t appeal to me because it is fanciful, but because it is powerfully descriptive of reality. The setting, races, and lore are fascinating and outlandish, but every person in that story could be a breathing living person. Watching Sam struggle with real life decisions draws to mind the battle of discernment in a loving relationship. It might be argued that Sam’s love would never have become so strong if not for the harrowing nature of such a journey. Heartbreakingly, their bond is cemented only to have Frodo ravaged and affected permanently from his travels and inevitably sent away.


It was hard for me to forgive Tolkien, but they had to be separated.


Their separation was the ultimate manifestation of their love for one another. They let go, when their emotions said everything contrary, for the sake of the other. Inevitably, I had toseparatemyself from the ones who did so much to help me during my duress. It was less final however, because I still have contact with the people who were so helpful and dear during my dark hour. Joe remains a steadfast friend and support in my pursuit of a University Degree and the fulfillment of my dreams.


So to finish my own story, or at least bring it up to the present: Eventually after increasing my boundaries enough to look after my own needs I moved out into a friends house. After a few months of learning to feed and take of myself I felt confident enough to start an easy job. As providence would have it, an old friend who was my boss at a restaurant I once worked in, was now working as the general manager of a nearby branch. To my delight, he took me on as an employee. Like everything else in my recovery, I started small. I worked for three hours, two or three times a week. From there, I worked my way up, and after one year I was working full time as a waiter.


In conclusion, Tolkien played an integral role in my realisation that my suffering was united into a greater cause and purpose. Tolkien showed me that no matter how dark my life became, I was struggling for a reason and it was worth the toil. Like Tolkien, I’m using story to convey God’s love and that in Him is the real great pilgrimage. The worst of my recovery is over, but I still have many obstacles to overcome. I do not find myself distraught by my inabilities, but in awe that God walked so closely with me during every step.


As the great eagles came in to save the day, exactly like in Tolkien’s story, so I saw the workings of the Holy Spirit in my journey to freedom. I saw the fires of mount doom with my own eyes and tasted the ash of death in my mouth and I looked back upon the most impossible journey and felt Him lift me up and away from the desolation. Like with Frodo, my journey left permanent scars, remnants of the awesome struggle that will never go away. This is a unintended consequence of many great adventures. If I had stayed indoors and shirked the immense risk I took upon myself, for fear of such consequences, I would have brought upon myself an even greater tragedy: I would have denied myself the very occasion to make real the extraordinary, majestic, and beautiful qualities waiting to be born within every person’s life.

Walking With Tolkien: A Journey From Desolation to Life, Part 2 of 3


So Adam, Joe, and Megan journeyed together. A pilgrimage of many now.

Admittedly, I clung to anyone who showed me authentic support. Long before this time I came to realize how my condition alienated me from people; understandably, they never knew how to react. To be confronted with someones utter vulnerability is not an easy thing to do. The one major exception being the kind ladies at my parish who took me into their hearts! It was just like Frodo and the Ring. The Ring had a strange effect on the people around him, it seemed to polarize people. Either they began to turn on him, for lust of the ring, or they rallied behind him. More on Frodo later! 

I became obsessed with counting.

It gives me chills to look back at the calendars of meticulous records I kept. I could tell you how every day went: I counted how many stairs I did in a day and even detailed how many constituted right legs and how many left legs, how many seconds I listened to an audio book, how many minutes I’d spend sitting, how many times I swung my arms around, how many times I shook my protein shake in the morning and with which arm, the number of dishes I removed from the dishwasher, etc. Anything I did, I counted. Through these records I could control to the smallest degree how much I increased over time. Also, I had factual numbers to argue against my over-active imagination and anxiety, and this was a critical weapon in my arsenal.

I crept and nibbled at my boundaries.

From walking I went to stairs, from darkness I went to tiny amounts of light, from silence to small snippets of audio books. Every increase ran a heavy risk of increasing my pain for varying lengths of time, varying from hours to days. If I remained steady without panicking, usually the pain would settle back to what it was at before the new increase. Once I was steady for a time, I could try upping the amount again. I’d go from doing twenty four stairs a day to twenty six and try that out for a week. It was grueling and exhausting work, but I kept chipping away, one step at a time.

Another unforeseen difficulty arose after my initial successes.

Sometimes I’d be so encouraged by my new abilities that I’d develop “Superman Syndrome”. Essentially, I’d feel like I was in control again and make some large new advancements. This usually didn’t cause pain immediately, but after it was too late I’d receive heaps of pain signals which would last for days. Imagine having all the chocolate chip cookies in the world, a completely empty stomach, and being told by a cranky old miser that you could only have one. Wouldn’t you try to sneak another? It wasn’t totally unlike Gollum’s insatiable hunger for the ring. It took great strength to resist these temptations, and to continue on at a healthy pace.

Every time I took more than was good for me, Joe was there to help.

He took my calls, told me a thousands times that the setbacks where just as important as the victories. He calmed me, told me I wasn’t doomed for failure. He confirmed my trust in God’s plan and carried me when I had no strength left. Notably, Joe never called me, and this was the way it had to be. I learned to ask for help and to express what I needed or didn’t need. This distinction was crucial because it taught me to exercise my own will again, to fight with my own action against the obstacles set before me.

I had Joe for aid, but Christ was the greatest support in my journey. Every few months after receiving the Holy Eucharist I would go to the chapel and let it all out. There, I would allow all the pressure and sorrow to release in an effusive outpouring. It was a small gift I could make to the most compassionate love in my life.

How could God allow such a horrible event in my life?

It was irrelevant. I knew He was guiding me, and on more than one occasion He showed me the depth of his love and care. When truly in love and knowing that we are beloved, we become more willing to exercise trust. I learned to exercise this trust, and it became a solace in the desert of my afflictions. There’s something a person may experience in the depths of their heart that is as undeniable as their own existence. A whisper, a soft word, or rather – The Word. Christ was the primary person who brought total trust to my otherwise dismal and hopeless condition.

At the two year point I hit the halfway mark.

I was spending just as much time walking around as I was lying down. Though I was limited by where or how I could walk, it was a remarkable achievement. In order to train myself to walk on uneven surfaces, I began making trips outdoors during my “up” periods. Imagine your neighbour making seven trips to the mailbox and back each day! Not only that, but he’d swing his arms around like a madman (Megan made me in order to increase my arm flexibility) and wave at you when you just wanted to drive quietly into the cul de sac unnoticed. What fond memories! My neighbours really rooted for my recovery.

As you can see, up until this point I’d seen some pretty harrowing and overwhelming obstacles. Tolkien shows great insight into human suffering and grief. The Lord of The Rings is a beautiful revelation of the deeper realities contained within our own lives. His epic tale is a poetic parallel to my own great adventure.

Once I decided to introduce sound back into my repertoire, my father picked up an audio book from our local library. The first story I would hear in many silent months would be The Fellowship of The Ring, the first book in Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of The Rings. Those few seconds I got to enjoy the spoken tale were unbearably delightful. As Gollum waited for his chance to snatch back the ring, so I waited in agony a whole day just to get three more minutes of the story. This was my only entertainment at the time, so it was a long wait. It also meant that when I did get some audio book time I listened carefully and enjoyed all aspects of the story I could pick up on. My tolerance for audio increased and likewise the amount of time I could listen. After a few weeks, I could get fifteen minutes a day comprised of smaller chunks. I progressed through book one and then on to book two: The Two Towers. My investment into the characters was enormous. Tolkien captured beautifully the essence of a long tedious journey done on foot; I could easily apply the story to my own experiences.

Frodo and Sam became extensions of my own capacity for adventure and the fellowship something akin to supporters.

I took the death of Gandalf with great sorrow. The pain of the characters was vivid and personal. It was irrelevant that I already knew of Gandalf’s eventual “resurrection”; I too needed a respite in the forests of Lothlorien to recuperate my desire for more adventure. On the flip side, I remember literally thrusting my arms in the air and cheering when Gimlee, emerging from the shadows screaming a war cry, saves Éomer during the siege of Helms Deep. My victory thrust was followed by half an hour of elation, and occasionally skipping, as I reconstructed the scene in my mind over and over again.

Inevitably and fortuitously, the company split up.

Sam’s burst into the icy waters of his own doom made me cry for appreciation of the beauty of such an action. His utter devotion to the end was stupefying. For me, Sam’s act of devotion was totally believable, thanks to Joe. I had seen my own friends depart and so it would be with the fellowship. The full support cast is whittled down to a skeleton crew. The extras peel off and the real fight comes down to the most unlikely characters, our friends the Hobbits.

My recovery didn’t carry the same heroic goal of “saving all good things”, but it was heavily weighted with consequence.

I had no days off. The thought of taking even an hour off left me in cold sweats. I couldn’t stop, to go back was unthinkable. To admit defeat would be to give up the last chance I ever had to succeed. The pressure was horrible; I had nothing which I could use to say, “Ok, lets stop for a moment and do something else.” I could do nothing else. The soft prison, my couch, was there waiting for me endlessly. Months and eventually years of darkness and little mobility crushed my spirit. The immensity of Frodo’s undertaking weighed heavily upon his shoulders as well. How could one small Hobbit carry the enormous burden of the ring? I also wondered just how much pressure I could endure, before I could take no more.

I hope you have enjoyed Part Two. Soon, I will post Part Three.

Walking With Tolkien: A Journey From Desolation to Life, Part 1 of 3

A quick foreword. Due to it’s length I’ve split this post into three segments. The first two will detail portions of my recovery from a severe injury; while the third, using reference to my story, will draw parallels with and comment upon Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings. Without further delay…

My life was in dire risk and to find my way to safety required a journey of epic proportions.

Tolkien’s novels were a sympathetic view to my own impossibly difficult adventure that was forced upon me, not totally unlike our dear Bilbo. My great adventure nearly drained me to complete emptiness, it breathed fire and death down my throat and gave no mercy. It took no survivors and annihilation was the price for failure. To even remember this great trial is burdensome, but I must.

There is something of every great tale, no matter how tragic, that cries, begs, to be told. It is essential that our tales be told because stories told by humans are human, are coloured, are subjective, and thus, alive. My story began over three years ago. I decided, against the warnings of many, to walk across Canada. I carried no food, no tent, no money. I had no support, only a tarp, basic clothing and belief in something greater than myself.

My trek was short sighted. Lack of physical preparation left my body ravaged by the unending toil. Yet my will prevailed, unintentionally spiting my body in the process. I walked to what I believe was the outer edge of my human capacity. Severe cramps nearly stopped my pilgrimage on more than one occasion; I couldn’t sleep without my legs jolting in spasms in the darkness. I won out over my difficulties, but at a great cost.

I was plagued by constant pain.

Even after resting and doing light labour for six weeks the pain only got worse. I returned home and began the real pilgrimage: a journey through unimaginable hopelessness, suffering, and solitude. Once home, I was confronted with complete separation from my friends, from any activity, from any source of life, other than the divine. Not only was my body in disrepair, but also my spirit and emotions took a heavy toll from the pain and isolation. Only God, and His angels, could see me through this time of agony.

My mother and father had a close perception of my struggle, but they could only help with my daily needs. Headaches I struggled with from before the walk became worse. My leg pain increased. Slowly, I lost the ability to do anything. I lay prostrate on my couch, motionless, hoping and waiting for healing. As my headaches overcame all forms of entertainment I had left, I inevitably covered my eyes and lay in darkness. No TV, no music, no audio, no visual stimuli. Even looking at the ceiling caused me pain, glancing through the window induced greater pain. I was trapped and could see no way out.

Something akin to death touches you in a situation like this.

A dark, dark night overcomes everything you once understood. A vast gap was created between myself and all forms of relaxation, of escape. I remained hopeful of a miracle. I reasoned, “This is so horrendous that God must be planning a miracle cure, so I’ll wait.” I was not idle, however. I saw doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, a rheumatologist, and many other professionals; yet, I found no relief. Only pain. Unending pain.

My salvation came at first through Megan, my physiotherapist.

By indicating that I was incapable of lifting my foot a short distance onto a stepping stool, she crushed all the remaining hope I had left in believing that things weren’t that bad yet. Sure, I was only bed ridden twenty three hours a day for nine months, using my arms to go up stairs (which caused many shoulder problems), unable to sit for more then fifteen minutes to eat, and only capable of living headache free in utter darkness and silence. It wasn’t that bad.

I nearly cried, but couldn’t in front of this relative stranger. So I stomached the pain of my realisation: I was horribly lost and only getting worse. She made a “gentle” suggestion: either start working at increasing your boundaries or you will continue to spiral downwards and live the rest of your life in constant pain. This wasn’t the first time “expanding my boundaries” had been suggested to me. I tried many times, but every effort resulted in my condition worsening. So, I didn’t take her words to well. More of the same I thought.

I started at a good pace. At that time I had twenty three hours per day couch time, and even that one hour was a bit of an exaggeration of time spent walking from the couch to the fridge or bathroom and back. Megan began my therapy by getting me to get off the couch for short timed intervals. Every 20 minutes I would get up and walk for 1 minute. So I did, and I hated every second of it. I despised this time like a fish hates the desert. Turned out, I could only do that for five hours a day, but I now had 15 minutes of walking in one day! Have you ever celebrated 15 minutes of walking as though it were 100km’s? Unfortunately, I have. That was the quickest my recovery ever went.

Next step: Get up every 20 minutes during 7 hours of the day, then 9 hours/day, 12 hours/day, etc.

Finally, after three weeks, I had just over a half hour of walking a day in intervals no longer than one minute. Unforeseen obstacles arose everywhere. The floor hurt my feet, I had severe pain from bending to get up and down from the couch (my flexibility had become nil due to complete inactivity), the extra exposure to light increased my headaches, weirdly I was incapable of standing still, and on and on. Not to mention, a general sense of hopelessness, increased overall pain, and complete despondency would overcome me at most times during this process.

Urged on by my victories, it was time to push the boundaries further.

Every time I rose from the couch I remained walking for an extra five seconds longer than normal. The increase was unbearable, too much, too far from my comfort zone. Megan’s only job at this point was to convince me that I wasn’t going to crumble into oblivion and be sucked into an abyss. I had never really known fear and anxiety until then.

The second vital source of my path to recovery was a friend named Joe.

Joe gave unimaginable support. He was a friend who was dear and close, who could carry seemingly any burden for any length of time. Imagine a crazed and nearly depressed youth with more pain than youthful insensibility calling you for seven hours a week, on a good week. He was always there, always ready to affirm and set me back on my good path.

The impossible was being accomplished; I was getting better, but believe me it did not feel like it. It was like trying to encourage one’s hair to grow and checking the mirror every half hour to see if any progress had been made. The more I looked, the more I convinced myself that nothing was happening.

Thus ends Part One, please stay tuned for Part Two!